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Plagued peanut butter company to begin harvesting next week

Tainted Peanut Butter

Jeri Clausing/AP

Sunland Inc. peanut butter and nut processing plant in eastern New Mexico, near Portales, has been shuttered since late September due to a salmonella outbreak that sickened dozens. The Department of Justice is seeking a permanent injunction against the nation's largest organic peanut butter plant, an eastern New Mexico facility that has been linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 42 people in 20 states.

A peanut butter plant shuttered by a widespread salmonella outbreak has been given the go ahead to start harvesting a bumper crop of prized eastern New Mexico Valencia peanuts next week under an agreement that ends a tense, monthslong standoff with federal regulators.

A consent decree filed in federal court Friday says Sunland Inc. can reopen its plant in Portales if it hires an independent expert to develop a sanitation plan, which then must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Conditions at the plant, which is the largest organic peanut butter producer in the country, prompted the FDA in November to use new authority for the first time to revoke the company's operating certificate without a court hearing. The action came after the plant was linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 42 people in 20 states this fall.

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FDA flexes new food safety law to shut down Trader Joe's peanut butter plant

peanut butter

Photo by Bill Keaggy via Flickr Creative Commons

In September, more than 70 types of peanut butter and almond butter were folded into a large-scale recall of Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter after 29 salmonella illnesses in 18 states were linked to that product.

On Monday, the peanut butter manufacturing facility — the largest organic processor in the country — was effectively shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when the agency flexed its new food law authority and suspended the company's required registration.

Says the FDA:

In the interest of protecting public health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended the food facility registration of Sunland Inc., a producer of nuts, and nut and seed spreads...

...The fact that peanut butter made by the company has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney that has sickened 41 people in 20 states, coupled with Sunland’s history of violations led FDA to make the decision to suspend the company’s registration.  

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